33rd SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME (A)
Sunday 19 November 2023
“Then the one who had received the one talent also came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew that you were a harsh man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not scatter seed; so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.’ But his master replied, ‘You wicked and lazy servant! You knew, did you, that I reap where I did not sow, and gather where I did not scatter? Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and on my return I would have received what was my own with interest”.
The use of ‘talent’ as a term to indicate a capacity for ingenuity, or a particular giftedness, comes precisely from this parable. Originally, a talent was a weight of circa 30kg, which had a value of around 6000 denari. If we think that one denarius was a worker’s daily wage, we can begin to realise the enormity of the sum entrusted to the servants!
In this account, the landowner demonstrates his unconditional and thoughtful trust in his servants, bearing each person’s capacity in mind. The first two servants respond in turn to this trust, considering the propriety of the talents received. In fact, these were never as a loan, given that the verb used here (‘paradidomi’) is the same verb used when speaking of inheritance. The case of the third servant, described as “wicked and lazy” (useless), is different. Faced with this judgement by the landowner, this servant feels driven by fear to bury the talent, in order to hold on to a guaranteed outcome. In fact, according to Hebraic tradition, once it it buried he would no longer be required to reimburse the master if it was stolen. His trust in the landowner didn’t grow, and, for this reason, he uses his head to protect himself rather than to invest and earn. Furthermore, fear paralyses him: he was afraid to risk, to make mistakes, to sin. Compared to the other two servants, the cause of his fear was that he never felt that the talent was ‘his’.
The Kingdom of Heaven is founded on trust. Jesus tells us: “I do not call you servants any longer… but I have called you friends” (John 15:15). He has already done His part. Now it is our turn, to set aside all fear and ‘give it a go’: let’s use our talents to bear fruit, with the fullness of trust that what He entrusts to us is His and ours, and whatever we do, we do together with Him, partaking in His joy.